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Complaint filed over improper debris burning

Fri, Nov 21st, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Kay Spangler attended the November 17 Preston City Council to explain her grievances about the demolition and burning of the debris from two homes. The debris was hauled to a pit area on the property of David and Rita Wilson on the west edge of town and burned over a three week period. Spangler lives near the site.

The first Preston law enforcement officer to follow up on the smoke complaint at the Wilson property was met by people working at the site who suggested that they were not aware that the burn site was in the Preston city limits. After this visit by the police, Spangler said that the fire continued to burn and smoke and that trucks continued to haul debris to the site for another week and a half.

Spangler wrote her first letter complaining about the acrid smoke and smell at her home on September 19. She noted that they had been away from their home for a week or so. Spangler delivered the letter to the city and was assured that city law enforcement would stop the dumping and the burning. She said that the large area where the debris had been burned was excavated and covered up the next day.

Mrs. Spangler asserted that Wilson had not obtained an open burning permit. Spangler suggested that two old homes purchased by Andy Bunge were demolished and hauled to the Wilson site.

Attorney Dwight Luhmann who represents the city and also Andy Bunge informed this reporter that Bunge purchased the one property on Fillmore Street as an empty lot and was not responsible for removing the existing home. Spangler said that she followed one truck back to the home that used to be the Strahl property.

Councilman Robert Sauer suggested that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) could make the parties involved dig up the ash and debris. City Attorney Dwight Luhmann noted that the MPCA is considering that possibility. He added that the parties involved have met with and are cooperating with the MPCA. At this time no decision has been made.

Spangler was most concerned about what has been buried and if there is any hazardous material that could affect private wells. The buried debris is near the Root River. She requested that the city consider adopting a Demolition Landfill Ordinance.

City Administrator Joe Hoffman said that the city has an open burning ordinance, but that people cannot burn a house. He stated that no burning permit had been applied for and if it had been applied for with the purpose of burning debris from the old homes, it would not have been issued. He suggested that maybe the city should modify its ordinance.

Spangler asked who determines how a building should be demolished. Mayor Kurt Reicks stated that if a landowner makes a request to burn a structure that it could be done once the structure has been inspected. All material that is determined to be hazardous must be removed and taken to a landfill.

Hoffman insisted that if a resident doesn't apply for a permit, the city loses the ability to control the situation. Reicks added that if the city needed to issue a permit to demolish, then the city would be aware and could control the process.

The council by consensus agreed to have Hoffman bring back a possible modification of the Garbage Ordinance. Hoffman explained that a modified ordinance would give the city the ability to issue a cease and desist order when necessary.


• Joe Hoffman explained that Traditions Management Company has purchased the nursing home. An assisted living memory care unit is planned for the east portion of the building. The west side is expected to be leased out for business uses. Because of this mixed use for the facility, the Planning and Zoning Commission has created a new category, Industrial Office Residential (IOR). A public hearing was held on the new ordinance on November 10 at the P & Z meeting. The commission recommends adoption of the modified ordinance which applies to existing structures. The city council adopted the ordinance modification.

Hoffman said that Traditions Management Company has filed an application to rezone the nursing home from R-2 (family residential) to IOR (Industrial Office Residential). A public hearing was also held at the P & Z meeting to consider this change. P & Z recommended approval and the city council voted to approve.

• Hoffman asked the council to consider another request made for rezoning by S & A Petroleum. Rich Irish explained that they want to install a sign for the gas station. Some of the property to be rezoned is owned by MnDot. Hoffman said that MnDot has no objection to the change of zoning designation. The property to be rezoned is east of the motor mart and west of CSAH 17.

P & Z held a public hearing and recommended approval. The council approved the change from R-2 to B-2 (highway commercial).

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